Premera Blue Cross' two-year bid to convert to for-profit status was rejected today by Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who said the transaction would harm policyholders, providers and the public. "I've reached my decision following a careful consideration of the law and all the evidence," Kreidler said at a press briefing. "I'm confident it is a fair and just decision." The ruling means Premera, Mountlake Terrace, Wash., will remain not-for-profit and will not transfer its initial stock worth several hundred million dollars into a new healthcare foundation for the state. The 900,000-member insurer had argued that it needed to become a for-profit company in order to more easily raise money to increase membership, beef up reserves and remain competitive.
Premera is the third Blues plan to have its conversion plans denied in just over a year. State regulators blocked conversion attempts by CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Owings Mills, Md., in March 2003 and by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas in August 2003. Soon after, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey scrapped their respective plans to convert. -- by Laura B. Benko